June 5 – I Will Remember – Do this in remembrance of Me: The wonder of the Lord’s Supper

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I Will Remember – YouVersion Plan

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Read Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

One of my favorite times with the local church is when we observe the Lord’s Supper together. It is one of the most intimate, reflective, and celebratory times we have. Now I understand while some may call it communion, Holy Communion, or the Eucharist, the Lord’s supper is a sacrament (or an ordinance in some traditions) that all Christian faith traditions observe as it has been handed down to us from Christ himself. 

Go back in time to that first Lord’s Supper. Moments before Christ would be betrayed, arrested, beaten, mocked, flogged, and crucified, he gathered his disciples together for one last meal. But it wasn’t a normal meal—it was a deep, meaningful, and sacred one. 

What’s interesting about the institution of this meal is that it was replacing another deep, meaningful, and sacred meal that the Jews observed. That meal was called the Passover, a meal Jews shared to celebrate their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. 

At Jesus’ meal with his disciples, he began by breaking bread and speaking about how this was his body given for them. Following the bread was the wine. He held up the glass and described this cup as the “new covenant” in his blood—blood poured out for all people. 

As you could imagine, for Jesus’ disciples, it was a weird meal to say the least. However, it would come to make total sense with Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. It was then they realized why Jesus uttered, “Do this in remembrance of me.” As a result, they continued to observe the meal. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 11:23–25, Paul describes how the early church observed the Lord’s Supper. He explains how the practice of the Lord’s Supper proclaims “the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

The institution of the Lord’s Supper wasn’t meant to be just a time of recalling Christ’s death. Sure, that is part of it. But as N.T. Wright suggests, “The present moment (whenever) somehow holds together the one-off past even (the Lord’s death) and the great future when God’s world will be remade under Jesus’ loving rule (until he comes).” 

Therefore, when God’s people observe the Lord’s Supper—remembering the death of Christ—there is a celebration (for what he has done), there is a consecration (for what he is doing in and through us now), and there is an anticipation (as we long for his coming when he will fully make all things new).This is the wonder of remembering Christ’s death and resurrection through the Eucharist with the saints. 

Questions for Reflection

Take a few moments to think through the implications of Christ’s death in your life. Thank him for what he has done. 

Now ask him what his death and resurrection mean for those around you.  

May 24 – Extraordinary Women of the Bible – Mary Magdalene

Read Luke 8:1-2 and Mark 16:9-11

Death to Life. Old to New. Graves to Gardens. Ashes to Beauty.

All of these phrases represent what Jesus has done for us and causes me to think of Mary Magdalene.

We only see her appear in Scripture just a handful of times but her story is one of a new life. Luke and Mark both tell us that Jesus healed her of evil spirits and demons were cast out.

We don’t see her backstory or her childhood. We do not see what abuse she may have gone through or what caused the enemy to grab a hold of her so strongly that she was oppressed and possessed with such evil. 

What we do see is her changed life.

Luke tells us that she went from city to city with Christ as He preached and taught. Mark tells us that Christ appeared to her and she is who ran to tell the other followers.

I look back at my old life and I do not recognize that person. That person was filled with such hopelessness and despair but Christ came to me, saved me and set me free from that darkness, just as He did for Mary Magdalene.

When we experience the gospel, it changes us but it also changes our perspective and our priorities.

Christ saw something in her and gave her a new purpose by delivering her from the darkness she knew all too well.

Just as He did for her, He has done for you.

What darkness may be filling your perspective? Where have you possibly lost hope?

May I encourage you to go back and read the gospels. The Lord healed so many people during His ministry on earth and He continues to heal us.

I pray that, as you look at the circumstances in your life, you also see the deliverance and the hope that is in Jesus. I pray that, like Mary, we walk forward, listening to His truths, words and life and allow that to cause us to experience more change for us and help to those around us.

I challenge you: spend some time in Luke 8 and Mark 16 and write down all of the ways in your life that God has shown up and moved. Allow that to propel you to the posture of surrender and hope. 

May 23 – Extraordinary Women of the Bible – Martha & Mary

Read Luke 10:38-40

My Grandma had 9 children, so, when we all got together, it was a major event. All year, she looked forward to the July reunion.  In January, she would stand in line at the Parks and Rec office to be sure to reserve our favorite picnic table at the city park.  Further preparations included lots of baking of cookies, homemade noodles drying on her dining room table and my uncles’ favorite potato rusk rolls. But in my memories of Grandma at the reunions when the work was over, all that came from her were lots of smiles and laughter. One of my fondest reunion pictures is of her hiking up her long skirt and wading barefoot in the creek with the little ones! Grandma was her happiest when she was in the presence of her children.

Reflecting back on that time, she reminds me of both Mary and Martha.  Martha in her wanting everything just right for her guests, but also like Mary in knowing how to not miss out on being in the moment and enjoying the ones she loved!

So, who are you like spiritually? Are you like Martha, so busy with your life that you totally forget that Jesus is waiting to spend some time with you? Do you only acknowledge Him when you are in trouble or when you are exhausted and at your wit’s end? If you do get to church on Sunday, are you too worried about what you or your kids are wearing, what you are going to cook for lunch, or what others might be thinking about your choice of earrings?  When you do study your Bible, are you so worried about which Scripture you should be reading and totally miss the message God is speaking to you?

Or are you a Mary, delighted to open your eyes before everyone else in the house is awake and just enjoy listening to Jesus and relaxing in His presence before your day starts? Do you freely speak to Him on your drive to work or school or even while doing household chores?

We all need to prepare for practically everything we do. The problem comes when the preparations take the place of the pleasure of the event itself.  Being in the presence of Jesus should have been Martha’s priority. I am sure she was nervous and wanted everything perfect!  Martha was missing it, all lost in her preparations. I don’t think Martha was bad; she just hadn’t realized how important this moment was.

Mary got it! Food to her didn’t matter at that time. Jesus was there! I can’t even imagine what that must have been like.

Jesus is calling for you to come, sit and chat. 

Will you take Him up on His offer?

May 21 – Extraordinary Women of the Bible – Anna

Read Luke 2:36-38

Faith: Seeing things the way God says they are and not how our eyes see them.

How many moments in our lives do we walk through situations or circumstances without faith? The only perspective we see is our own.

Take Anna for example. From Scripture, we know that she was very old and that she was only married 7 years before becoming a widow. We know that, for all of the time she was a widow, 84 years, she never left the temple. She continually prayed and fasted. When she saw Jesus, she knew. The Lord fulfilled His promise and sent His Son to redeem us.

“She…continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Put yourself in Anna’s shoes. If you lost your spouse or someone closest to you, would you spend every waking moment serving the Lord?

In my opinion, after Anna lost her husband, the culture said she wasn’t worth anything because she did not have a husband. However, the Lord had a different calling for her and, instead of seeing things the way the world said they were, she chose to see God’s perspective. The Scripture points out that she gave thanks to God after she saw Jesus.

This tells me that for 84 years, she prayed and fasted for the redemption of the world and, once God fulfilled the promise He gave since the beginning of the earth, she gave thanks because it was finished!

How many times in our lives do we lose something but, instead of looking at it through the lens of our sadness or despair, we see God through it all and pray for His promises to be seen and known?

Anna chose faith above all else. She chose to serve God until Christ came and continued to serve Him by spreading the news.

What lens do you see your life through? Do you hold steadfast to the truth that God has spoken? To hold firm to the faith He has gifted us with? Do you see things the way He says they are and not how our past, culture or eyes see them?

Kelly Lawson

May 20 – Extraordinary Women of the Bible – Mary

Read Luke 1:1-56

What does it mean to be blessed? It is a word that is used often nowadays, often on social media.

A New Home? #Blessed.

Unexpected bonus? #Blessed.

College Scholarship? #Blessed.

We may pray that God will bless our family. We talk about our undeserved gifts as “God’s blessings” and we talk about ministries being blessed.

So, what does it really mean?

Scripture shows that a blessing is anything God gives that makes one fully satisfied in Jesus (see Matthew 5:3-12) and that draws us closer to Him. Many times, it is the struggles and the disappointments which allow us to get closer to God. God’s greatest blessing always rests in God himself. When we have that, we are truly #blessed.

Mary was blessed. She was a poor virgin from a small village in Galilee. The way she responded to the angel (Gabriel) was in humility and faith. She was OK with God’s plan for her life, although it included suffering. At times, she must have been confused and full of fear as her life‘s events happened. After all, she was human. But, she was the mother of Jesus. Can you think of a greater honor? Luke writes about Mary’s amazing and humble hymn of praise – Mary’s Song – to God for the blessing of being the mother of the Messiah.

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed…”Luke 1:46-48

The New Testament gives us all the reliable information that we have about the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was descended from David, and Christ, as to his human nature, was a descendent of David (Romans 13, Acts 2:30, 2 Timothy 2:8).

Mary was distinctive in human history. She was “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42), and among men as well. She received the gift of being the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:43), who grew inside of her body in human form. Mary appears in Matthew 1 and 2 in the infancy story. She appears at Cana in Galilee when Jesus miraculously turned water into wine in John 2:1-12. She appears at the cross in John 19:25-27 and in the scene in the upper room in Acts 1:14.

The angel told Mary that she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Certainly, bearing and raising the Christ child was an incredible favor and blessing. Mary was blessed among women, despite the negatives. She was an extraordinary woman.

Mary was blessed by the journey she was on. How are you blessed on your journey? Like Mary, what are some circumstances that you can and should trust the Lord’s provision for? Even through the trials of life, God is faithful and will bless you as you rely on Him.

Tom Weckesser

May 14 – A Changing Culture – Honesty/Integrity

Read Luke 16:10 and 1 Peter 3:10-12

“Honesty and Integrity are absolutely essential for success in life, all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity.”

Zig Ziglar

Would you say this is true?

For me, I believe that anyone can develop both of these attributes but, for the most part, it takes divine intervention and life change to cause the two to build and prosper. Once built, it takes prayer and practice to continue. 

In both my professional and personal life, I pride myself on honesty and integrity. This was not always the case. Before I started following Jesus, I didn’t put much stock in honesty or integrity. I wasn’t very dependable and really only did what I wanted and got away with it a lot of the time because honesty wasn’t something I really cared about or what the ramifications were. Then I met the Lord, I started following Jesus and listening to His Word, and practicing the holiness of what it meant to be different from the world around me. 

The Lord showed me, little by little, that being honest with those around me sets me apart from most and adds value to not only my work ethic but also my relationships. He showed me that integrity is something that takes a lot of surrender and that the actions and words coming from my life bleed into who I am performing for.

If my life is to honor Jesus, then it should be an audience of One. 

As Luke reminds us, what we do with little, we will do with much. No matter the tasks at hand or circumstances that surround us, how we act with any scenario changes how people see us. Do they see Jesus within your life?

The past year has been an extremely difficult one for me at work. With a lot of transition and a lot of changes, it would have been easy for me to just take the easy road and do the bare minimum to get by. However, because the Lord has instilled within me integrity, I am able to surrender my own selfishness and work for the audience of One and show that I am different in my work ethic.  The Lord instilled within me honesty, and, because of that, I am to stand tall with knowing I am doing all that I can do and make sure that I am as true to the job as I can be. 

Whether at work or in your personal life, have you ever not had integrity or were not honest? How did you feel after? What ramifications came from it? How did you start seeing yourself? The bottom line of these two attributes is that they honor the Lord and show respect to those around us. 

Peter mentions that the Lord sees righteousness, right standing, and, in that, we become more like Jesus and less like the world. 

And that is the goal – to be different, to be set apart. 

May we be different than the culture around us and stand on integrity and honesty to set us apart from the rest.

How are you going to do this, starting this week?

Kelly Lawson

April 15 – Life From Death

Read Luke 7:1-10 ; 8:43-48

As we talk about life arising from death in this series, it is almost impossible to NOT talk about the trust that comes into play when we walk hand in hand with God.

How often do you go through a trial or tribulation within your own life and lose faith?

I will be the first to admit that, in the few months leading up to two of our son’s surgeries, it was hard to grasp this strength in faith (Thank God for the husband He has blessed me with to lean on!). It’s was hard to put my anger and sadness aside and just praise Christ’s name…but I did. Because, when we sing His praises, Death IS DEFEATED!! When we proclaim His name, healing transpires and hope instills.

As I read this passage of Luke, I am reminded of the amount of faith certain people had in Jesus’ name, power and sovereignty. This commander had a tremendous amount of faith that he knew Jesus didn’t NEED to be in his friend’s presence to heal, that all He had to do was speak it and it would be. Only several chapters later, we are introduced to the woman who bled for 12 years and, in this culture, at this time, she was considered unclean and most likely had no friendships. Yet, in the midst of crowds of people, she touched Christ’s cloak as He walked by and she was healed. She exemplified such faith that He didn’t even need to know she was there…all she had to do was touch Him and she knew she would be whole and clean again.  In both of these people’s hearts was this momentous belief that Jesus could bring the death they knew back to life.

Easter Sunday is one that causes me to not only have gratitude that Christ came and took my punishment so that I could live forever with Him in Heaven, but I am hit with the powerful reminder that He brings life from death every day.

May we look backwards with praise for He conquered the grave. May we look forward in anticipation of the day we get to live in His presence and may we look at our present lives with a hunger for more change, for more death defying power that only comes from the God we serve.

Kelly Lawson

April 7 – Holy Week Devotionals – The Death of our King

Good Friday. The Death of our King.

Read Luke 23:32-46 (with 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 Peter 3:18)

Familiarity breeds contempt.

You’ve heard that before.  Maybe you’ve said it. It’s referring to someone becoming so familiar with something or someone that they lose respect for that person or that thing.

We tend to take a lot of things for granted. Like that we have nutritious food available to us every day. Like we get to choose the clothing we wear every day. Healthcare. Job. Income. A lot of things could actually make the “for granted” list

It happens in marriages.  It can happen in friendships. And it can happen in faith.

Being part of a strong evangelical Christian church serious about proclaiming the gospel, we hear and talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus a lot… I mean A LOT! Not just every weekend. But we probably talk about it or read about it regularly. For some of us, maybe even every day of the week… or nearly, at least.

It just rolls off the tongue… effortlessly. That doesn’t mean it’s lost it’s meaning. But it could.  It’s at least familiar. Very familiar.

So, let’s take a moment to make sure it’s just familiar, and that it doesn’t breed… well, you know.

It might be good to read Paul’s and Peter’s words again. Slowly. Every word. What Paul and Peter are describing, so clearly and descriptively, is the substitutionary significance of the death of Jesus – the indispensable doctrine that Jesus died in my place because of my sin, and that He endured the wrath of God and the punishment I deserved because of my sin.

When I share the gospel with someone I like to depict that momentous, historical, life-altering occasion like this. It depicts that a transaction has taken place.

Label the top arrow “sin” and the bottom arrow “righteousness.” Jesus took my sin, and I received His righteous.  He removed the obstacle (my sin) between me and God and I received the requirement for heaven, righteousness.  A righteousness I could not earn and I do not deserve.

Your Turn

On the arrow extending from you to Jesus, put your most grievous, shameful, humiliating sin. The one that, if it were ever made public, it would reduce you to a puddle of tears. Put it on the arrow. What other sin belongs there? Things you have already done, thought, or said today? Put those on the arrow as well. See where they go? They go to the Savior. And see what you get? What you don’t deserve: righteousness. O what a Savior!

Take time right now to praise Him, celebrate Him, honor Him… worship Him.

*If you like to download a hard copy of these devotionals click here to download.

March 8 – Hard Questions 2.0

Read 1 Peter 3:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 and Luke 19:10

When was the last time you were put on the spot about your faith?

I remember chatting with a co-worker before a Chipotle shift. At the time, I was going to school for ministry and, knowing that, she had some questions about God, Christianity, Church…the whole 9 yards.

We live in a world that is increasingly anti-God. When we say anything about church, praying or God, we seem to be quickly met with pushback to the point where we feel like we are the defendant in a high-profile court case.

Regardless of how we may feel, this is the world we live in.

How do we respond to the questions we hope no one will ask us?

For the next week and a half, we are going to explore such questions. Before we do, I want to take a moment to set the scene, focus us for the devos that are ahead.

Our reading today describes a few ways that we should prepare for hard questions:

  1. Be prepared

Questions are going to come. We are going to be put on the spot. Peter is clear in telling us that we need to be:

“…always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

This upcoming series is a great resource for you to get prepared. Also, never hesitate to look in the Bible for the answer to a question you are asked.

2. Pray

Nothing of eternal significance happens apart from prayer. Pray for yourself. Pray for strength. Pray for confidence. Pray for clear communication. Pray for your friend. Pray for a soft heart. Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict their heart (John 16). Pray for a good conversation.

Paul shares with the Thessalonian church to simply:

“pray continually…”

Shower the whole interaction with prayer.

3. Don’t lose sight of the goal.

I think we quickly lose sight of the goal. The goal of this interaction isn’t to win an argument. We tend to verbally joust someone until they repent of their sins. That’s not how it works. We’re not after a speech and debate award. We are after their hearts.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Jesus came to earth to draw people to Himself…our mission should be the same.

Take a moment and, using these three points, prepare yourself for this series and the conversations that are to come!

Jake Lawson

March 7 – Parables – Pharisee and Tax Collector

Read Luke 18:9-14

Our ears tend to perk up and we tend to lean in with greater interest when a teacher or author introduces an illustration or story. When it is used well, the illustration serves as a window that gives us greater insight into the point being made. It is like a handle that gives us a firmer grasp of the point.

Jesus was a master-teacher around whom thousands gathered. Still today, His parables allow us to more clearly identify spiritual and personal realities.

In today’s parable, we don’t have to struggle long to understand the point. The story targets people who felt like they were morally upright. And their high estimation of themselves causes them to be critical of others.

Before we dismiss that, we must recognize that such a tendency can creep into the life of anyone. If you, by God’s grace, do not struggle in a specific area, you can overlook the many other areas of weakness in your life. As a result, you not only elevate yourself but you also can’t understand how others might struggle.

To illustrate the point, then, Jesus told a story that revolves around two characters in the temple. Jesus assigned titles to them so that the people in his day would better understand. The Pharisee was the first. He was highly respected. His was a life governed by rules. By his rule keeping, it seemed that he had it all together. His imperfections were beneath the surface, hidden to others and, even, glossed over by himself.

Meanwhile, the tax collector was a virtual antithesis. His Scrooge-like, love of money and his deceptive ways of attaining it had earned him a place at the low end of public opinion. In fact, the Pharisees even lumped “tax collectors and sinners” into one camp of immoral undesirables.

But their respective prayers were key. The Pharisee pridefully lifted up a prayer of self-exaltation and superiority. Meanwhile, the tax collector pled humbly and repentantly for God’s mercy. Of course, it was the tax collector who went home justified.

Let’s face it…God’s opinion matters more than public opinion. The attitude of the heart is, at times, a better measure of reality than the appearance on the surface. Our Father values genuine humility over misguided exaltation.

Are there areas of your life where you have an inflated view of yourself? Do you find yourself looking down on others? Perhaps you should pray the tax collector’s prayer: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Steve Kern